Longtime Second Ward City Council member Peter Braithwaite has taken a job as Director of Procurement, Diversity and Community Engagement at Northwestern University, marking the first time in recent city history two members of the council are employed by the university.

Peter Braithwaite

Braithwaite, who previously worked in a sales job with Grainger Industrial Supply, disclosed his new status Feb. 28 during council consideration of Mayor Daniel Biss’s appointment of Juan Geracaris to fill the vacated Ninth Ward Council seat.

Geracaris is a senior network systems engineer at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. 

Braithwaite recused himself from the Council’s 7-0 vote at the Feb. 28 meeting confirming Geracaris, explaining he was now employed at the university.

Reached about the matter, Braithwaite said he was concerned about the appearance of one Northwestern employee voting for another.

In selecting Braithwaite, Northwestern followed a standard recruitment process for the job, including posting the position online, said Dave Davis, the university’s Executive Director of Neighborhood and Community Relations.

Braithwaite emerged “as the strongest candidate” for the position in a competitive process that involved several rounds of interviews, Davis said.

He will report to the university’s Procurement and Payment Services Office where his role calls for developing, implementing and managing the university’s diversity portfolio, Davis said.

He said Braithwaite’s work will be much more expansive than Evanston and cover a number of other communities as well.

Draws on city experience 

Braithwaite has served as longtime chair of the city’s Minority, Women and Evanston Business Enterprise Development Committee.

He has been one of the rotating chairs of the city’s Economic Development Committee.

He said he is excited about his new role. “It allows me to leverage over $700 million that Northwestern procures,” he said. “It really does take into account that I’ve been in sales for a large portion of my adult life. I’ve always had a focus passion for helping local businesses.”

He said serving as council member of the centrally located Second Ward, the “most racially and economically diverse ward,“ should serve as an advantage too.

The ward includes two of the city’s major food stores, Valli Produce at Dempster-Dodge and Food 4 Less, at 2400 Main St., he noted.

Council positions are technically part time under Evanston’s council-manager form of government, with a number of council members holding outside jobs over the years.

Only a few, however, have held jobs with the university, whose needs on occasion have bumped up against the city’s.

Coleen Burrus, then-Senior Director of Corporate Engagement at Northwestern, served as council member of the Ninth Ward from 2005 to 2015, the first Northwestern employee to serve on the council in years.

Burrus would recuse herself on issues where Northwestern’s direct interest was involved.

But the pressure against ties with Northwestern, the town’s largest property owner, may come under greater scrutiny. 

A number of activists winning election to the council in 2021 advocated a stronger contribution from the university, which is exempt from paying property taxes.

Darlene Cannon, Braithwaite’s opponent in the 2021 election, ran a close race, losing by almost 75 votes.

Braithwaite said Tuesday he has always held full-time jobs during his time on the council.

He said other Second Ward council members before him have also held full-time jobs, naming the late Dennis Drummer, who ran a drapery business, and Lionel Jean-Baptiste, who had a storefront law practice.

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.

3 replies on “Northwestern now employs two Evanston City Council members”

  1. Congratulations to Peter Braithwaite from Edna Walker, former Communications Center and Public Relations Manager. He will carry his usual quality of service, dedicated commitment, and goal achievement mantra to this job. He is my cousin and I truly wish him all the best.!!

  2. Could you list where all of the current Council members are employed, if they have jobs other than their Council positions?

  3. Given that it feels as if somehow NU is somewhere in the background regarding so many City issues, and that the aldermen would necessarily recuse themselves from discussing or voting on these issues, it would seem the City should either avoid appointing NU employees, or that our council people shouldn’t actively seek employment by the University while they are serving. This seems problematic to me, especially as we saw how Burrus behaved on the dais. Clearly her employer’s wants came first and the Evanston Community a distant second.

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